2021 Carl G. Hempel Lectures

Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Virtual event

"The Invention of Religion."

General Abstract:

One source of our ideas about religion is the anthropology and sociology of religions, which took their first steps as modern disciplines in the decades leading up to the First World War. In these lectures, I'll explore some of the central ideas of the field in the work of some central figures—Edward Tylor, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim—and go on to argue that their ways of framing religions show up in more recent Darwinian work on the evolution of religion. I'll end by discussing whether the study of what we now call "religions" is helped or hindered by the conception of religion the founding fathers invented. Along the way we'll consider the great diversity of the people, practices, ideas, institutions, and identities, we call "religious." The project is one on social ontology—trying to characterize a kind of socially-produced object—and in the philosophy of the social sciences that aim to explore that object.


"Gods and Other Minds"

Abstract: Modern anthropology in the anglophone world, begins with the comparative, global study of what Sir Edward Tylor, the first Professor of Anthropology at Oxford, called "Animism."  Tylor saw the projection of agency into the non-human world as the heart of religion. We'll discuss that idea and begin to think about some of what it leaves out.